Friday, 15 March 2013

Live Review #001: Saint Vitus w/ Mos Generator and Atragon

Aside from not being sure how to format and structure them just yet, I finally feel the time is right to start writing live reviews. It's easy to say "I don't do live reviews" - as I said several years ago, when I lived in a place with no gigs, but now I have a much better chance to see bands, and I feel perhaps, finally, I should try one. It may or may not be a catastrophe.

I'd been thinking of doing live reviews for a while, and a few weeks ago, I couldn't help noticing that I'd be going to "The Cathouse" in Glasgow to see the very forefathers of the doom metal genre, Saint Vitus, during a month in which I dedicated this blog entirely to doom metal. That seemed, to me, a very good time to d├ębut live reviews as a feature, and with a band so absolutely appropriate to the current direction of reviews, this wasn't an opportunity to be missed. Happily, seeing the band in the first place likewise wasn't an opportunity to be missed, and I can safely say that this has been one of the most enjoyable gigs I've been to in the year so far.

I don't tend to take photos at shows, instead, here's the tour poster, and my ticket. 

The Cathouse wasn't a venue I'd ever been to before, but I'd heard a few mumblings about it having questionable sound - whether the acoustics of the building itself, or simply the sound-engineer throwing ham at the walls to see if it sticks, instead of working was at fault, I don't know. Whichever was true at the show which gave the people who told me this, it certainly wasn't true on the night - The sound, for both opening bands, and the mighty Vitus was perfectly reasonable, dare I say better than your average venue of it's medium-to-small dimensions. The show was nothing if not efficient, either, with the first band on within about ten minutes of the first ticket-holders making it through the door - less of a wait than I tend to endure, being one of those people who can purposefully aim to be late, and still arrive half an hour before the first act come on-stage. 

The first act, in this instance, were the relatively local stoner-doom outfit Atragon, who at one time opened for more or less every band to roll through, albeit in a fairly positive light. A recent trend of theirs, however, has been to open for bands relatively appropriate to their genre, which is refreshing, having seen them at times on the same bill as grindcore acts, and god only knows what else. It perhaps best illustrates the band's prolific appearances when one considers the fact that I had indeed seen them the previous day, opening for the French drone act Monarch and as far as I can remember, they played the same set. Fortunately, the set was an enjoyable one, and the band managed to riff through their set in a tight, orderly fashion, with both the accustomed crushing riffs, and the fluid, flowing lead work of their relatively-new guitarist utterly audible. Even their bassist, a man so thoroughly self-deprecating that at times that other people deprecate for him, was keeping a tight-ship on this night. Despite the venue not being warmed up particularly, Atragon managed to draw a crowd two or three rows deep, and their Electric Wizard meets Corrosion of Conformity meets Danzig stoner doom came through bright and clear - dispelling from my mind, until well after the gig, my suspicions of the venues ostensible sound-problems. 

Second up, and the last support act on a bill with fewer bands than I initially suspected, were Mos Generator, who were, admittedly, an entirely unknown quantity to me, having already presupposed they were "some band from Glasgow or somewhere". Instead, they turned out to be a pleasingly high calibre stoner-rock power-trio from the states, and probably played at the highest tempo of the evening. The band's sound combined elements reminiscent of Kyuss, Black Sabbath and at times Motorhead, all the while coming across as very all-american rock - They sounded, to put it another way, perfect to the backdrop of a large illuminated board reading "The Cathouse" which was glowing covertly behind the drumkit. The other entity behind the drumkit - the very energetic drummer, exuded the enthusiasm of Animal, from The Muppets, but possessed great deal more finesse. You could immediately tell that the drummer knew how to make the percussion watchable, twirling drumsticks dramatically, and really keeping my attention for most of the band's set. They dedicated a song to the late Clive Burr, which I felt was a nice touch, reminding everyone that, despite the vast majority of us, musicians and crowd-members, never meeting one another, rock n' roll unites us all in remembering.

Saint Vitus, I'm sure we can agree, are a fairly renowned band. Whenever I usually see such bands live, at shows, I expect to wait a half-an-hour, perhaps more, while the band do fairly-renowned-band-type-stuff, backstage. Saint Vitus, it seems, don't much care to pause - not more than ten minutes or so after Mos Generator left the stage, I was stood at the barrier, half-way through some sentence of small-talk when a roar went up from the crowd, and I could feel the crowd massing behind me. I was slightly confused when the roar subsided into an out-of-the-blue ECW chant, which suddenly made sense when I noticed Dave Chandler was wearing an "EC F'n W" t-shirt. The casual appearance of the band, and the immediate banter between them and the audience solidly set the scene for the rest of the bands set. Saint Vitus are the sort of band who excel at showmanship - and are, at that, a band who can really be considered to have two front-men, and this was certainly emphasised by the bi-polar churning of the crowd, trying to reach whichever member was closest to the barrier. On one hand, you've got Scott "Wino" Weinrich on vocal duties, and on the other, you've got Dave Chandler's attention grabbing guitar antics - performing the sort of tricks which guitarists just don't seem to do very often any more - several times during the gig, I looked up from nodding my head to notice him playing guitar above his head, or soloing using his tongue. Saint Vitus are, undoubtedly, a band who know how to engage with their crowd, and at that, one who love what they do. When the show was over, the band spend plenty of time mingling and chatting with the fans, which isn't something I've really seen a band do to such an extent before - I've personally never encountered a band who were so approachable, and I think there's a real greatness to the bands stature - that of one which can make the crowd as enthusiastic as we were, but also one which is equally content to lean over the barrier into that crowd - one which is happy to stay and shake hands at the end.

I've never seen a venue so buzzing and packed, which brings advantages and disadvantages. Some crowds at shows understand physics, and can apply it to  the space within venues. Others cannot. The two people behind me spent a lot of the time doing experiments to see if two objects really could fit into the same space at the same time. Unfortunately, that space happened to have me in it, and a degree of my attention not utterly taken by Saint Vitus on stage was devoted to remaining in one place. Fortunately, this didn't spoil the proceedings. The set-list was one which was certainly well balanced all-round, blending the classics with tracks from the new album, which the tour is in support of. The set culminated in the final encore, Born Too Late, at which point I knew that it was the cherry on top of the occasion. 27 years ago, the band wrote that song, and they said they were born too late then. Almost three decades later, many of us shared that sentiment - it can be alienating, when in the morning you go back to whatever you do, and suddenly, your the only metalhead in the room. Of that same token, however, it felt now, as it must have then, that in some way, it really is our time. It's wonderfully refreshing to see four ageing, but deeply enthusiastic musicians on stage - not a single haircut between them. They never gave up on rock n' roll, and they make that utterly plain.

Some might say their songs are much too slow. They don't know the things we know.

Saint Vitus Official Site 
Saint Vitus on Facebook
Saint Vitus on Metal Archives
Mos Generator on Facebook
Atragon on Facebook
Atragon on Metal Archives

I hope my first ever live-review hasn't been too unwieldy or disappointing. I can only improve, after all.